Estrada to file lawsuit against German magazine
MANILA, Dec 12 (AFP) -
Philippine President Joseph Estrada has ordered his lawyers to file a lawsuit against a
German magazine which reported he pocketed millions of dollars in ransom to secure
westerners abducted by Muslim extremists, the presidential palace said Monday.
The German magazine Der Spiegel
reported that German secret police had tapped mobile phone conversations via satellite
between top Philippine negotiator Roberto Aventajado and the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist
Der Spiegel quoted police as
saying that Estrada and Aventajado took 40 percent and 10 percent respectively from a 20
million dollar ransom payment for the freedom of unnamed hostages seized by the rebels
earlier this year.
The president has "ordered
his laywers to file a lawsuit" for libel against Der Speigel, the statement said,
although it did not say when it would be formalized.
"He feels that this is a
false report given publicity unduly in Germany using German Secret Service sources,"
the statement quoted Press Secretary Ronaldo Puno as saying.
Puno said Estrada was
"really upset by this report" which also came amid his corruption trial at the
Senate which could lead to his removal from office.
Estrada has also asked
Philippine ambassador to Germany Jose Zaide to look into the report, but he does not
intend to make a diplomatic row on the issue, Puno said.
"The German government can
confirm or deny it, but only to that extent. There is no intention to make it a diplomatic
incident," Puno said.
Puno said "there is no
truth to these such tapes. If that tape exists, Der Spiegel should produce that."
Aventajado also rejected
allegations and threatened to sue the publication for libel.
Estrada's chief of staff,
Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, said Monday the Philippine government had sent two
police officers to Europe to help German intelligence translate the transcribed exchange.
"They brought back the
transcripts and nowhere in these transcripts did these allegations come up," Zamora
said in an interview with radio station DZMM.
The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21
Asian and European hostages in April from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan. The
rebels were reported to have received huge ransom payments for the release of some of the
More hostages were abducted
later and the military launched a rescue operation in September. Seventeen other hostages
including two Frenchmen and three Malaysians were rescued but the rebels still hold an
American and a Filipino hostage.
National police chief Panfilo
Lacson said they had received copies of the supposed transcripts between Aventajado and
Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang cited by the German weekly.
He said the document, which is
in the custody of police intelligence, did not mention anything about commissions.
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